Grey's Anatomy will make history on Thursday night
Grey’s Anatomy is making big moves!
On Thursday night, Shonda Rhimes‘ beloved series will make history as the longest-running medical drama on American television (with 332 episodes!) — surpassing ER, the groundbreaking NBC series that premiered in 1994 and signed off after 15 seasons.
“ER was one of the shows that made me want to write television,” Grey‘s showrunner Krista Vernoff exclusively told PEOPLE during a set junket last month. “It changed TV and it forged a path for Grey’s Anatomy to come. We walked in ER’s footsteps and we’re forever grateful. It’s amazing to me that we’re breaking that record. I’m just blown away!”
As an original cast member, Ellen Pompeo, who’s portrayed Dr. Meredith Grey for 15 seasons, also reflected on her journey thus far and says the show has “been so significant” to her personal and professional life.
“Obviously I never anticipated the show still being the No. 1 show on the network,” Pompeo, 49, exclusively told PEOPLE. “How do you walk away from a hit? The fans will dictate when the show ends. As much as we think we’re in control, we’re not. It’s the fans’ show at this point. They control how long the show goes. We’ll see. I kind of just take it year by year and see.”
“I think the biggest lesson is what something can be if you give it the chance to turn it around,” she added. “We had so much drama in the early days. The show was so strong and so solid and so amazing, then we had all these behind-the-scenes drama and then it would’ve been really easy to walk away and say, ‘I don’t want to deal with that anymore.’ I guess it’s a weird message, because I guess if you’re in a relationship that’s abusive, that’s something you should walk away from. How long do you stick with something that doesn’t make you feel good?”
Last month, ABC ordered three more episodes of Grey’s for the 2018-19 season, bringing the total order to 25 — leaving fans only wanting more — and the cast could not be more grateful of the milestone.
“It’s a point of pride,” Jesse Williams, who has portrayed Dr. Jackson Avery since 2009, told PEOPLE. “I’m really proud of the show and the work that we do. I think it’s easy to get kind of complacent when something has been on cruise control for so long. But it means a hell of a lot to a lot of people and it’s a pioneering show. Grey’s, well before it was trendy to talk about inclusion and diversity, this show both in front and behind the camera is miles ahead of any other program in terms of casting, writing and production”
He added, “This show has been so far ahead of the game for so long without asking for acknowledgment. That is political, that is impactful, and it saves lives. It makes people feel like they’re whole.”
“One of the most significant parts for me, is not that we managed to make enough episodes to break records, but it’s that culturally this show has become such a phenomenon and such an integral part of people’s lives and of their emotional landscape the last 15 years that the fans have wanted to keep us here to keep narrating their emotional story with them and we can keep pushing the boundaries and exploring the social boundaries of our culture,” Caterina Scorsone (Dr. Amelia Shepard) added.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.